School Catering Menus: Creating Tangible Change while Keeping on top of Spending

With independent schools out for summer, catering teams now have a small window of opportunity during the summer months to consider the wider demands of student health and nutrition while ensuring they stick within planned budgets.  

Young people’s priorities very much centre around how they can change the future for the better; part of this is about making improvements to how they live. For schools, it is no longer enough simply to ‘fly the green flag’, attempt to be more sustainable, or organise ad-hoc events and green initiatives to raise awareness.  Students want tangible changes that they can physically see.  In-school catering offers a great opportunity to create tangible, visible change whether that is around dietary requirements, allergens or a more varied range of eating experiences.

The vegan revolution has swept our younger generations over the last couple of years, making them question the impact our food consumption has over wider sustainability issues, as well as supporting local communities, farm to fork, fair trade etc.  This message has also changed over the years, the veer towards trends such as a plant-based diet is no longer just about a love for animals, nor is it simply about leading a healthier lifestyle, with the impact our diets have on climate change, the overall message is much deeper than nutrition.

For school catering teams, creating varied menus to suit all manner of diets is becoming the norm.  With that in mind, chefs are constantly looking to expand the range of interesting ingredients they use to experiment with new, relevant and on-trend recipes.  This sometimes comes at a price of course and while many schools are keen to source produce and goods from local suppliers, in a bid to support their community, the chances are, they are paying over the odds for the privilege. 

Having access to a range of suppliers and also live price comparison means that schools can shop around for the best deals and weigh up price vs quality by substituting items.  It doesn’t mean they have to stop buying locally either but having up to date data at your fingertips does give that bit of additional clout when negotiating better prices with local suppliers.  Thankfully eProcurement technology like Caternet is helping schools to create a much wider network of high quality, competitively priced suppliers as well as keeping them better informed on market costs.  Even something as simple as switching one or two regular purchases, could really add up over time.

At the moment, like many other sectors, school caterers are feeling the impact of the pandemic through their supply chain.  Availability of certain foods is perhaps not as reliable as it once was, driver shortages are also impacting delivery times and demand for certain ingredients particularly flour, plant-based and gluten free foods is also having an impact on purchasing.  Caternet’s system can also help with menu and recipe planning which can be a godsend if you need to adapt a recipe quickly if a product is not available.  Equally, planning menus that omit or highlight certain allergens is also a great time saving feature.  Some schools are even using automatic labelling technology that integrates with their eProcurement system and menu publishing platform – this ensures you keep on top of nutritional and allergens information too, with Natasha’s Law coming up in the not-too-distant future, any help school catering departments can get from using technology to save time and money while staying on top of legislation is invaluable and it reduce the risk of human error.

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